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The Cheng family enjoys lunch at the Lobster restaurant on Ocean Avenue on Thursday afternoon. The Lobster, along with several other Santa Monica eateries, participated in Dine L.A., a marketing campaign in which restaurants offer meals at a discount to attract new customers. Many restaurants reporter an increase in sales during the campaign. (photo by Brandon Wise)

DOWNTOWN — So, maybe restaurant week was a misnomer.

Santa Monica restaurants are folding up their fixe prix menus today as Dine L.A. comes to a close after a two-week encore.

The event, originally scheduled to end on Feb. 6, got an extension because of the popularity of the reduced-price menus that allowed economy-conscious diners to bust out of their penny-pinching and enjoy a meal out.

The enthusiasm of restaurants to continue with the program encouraged Dine L.A. organizers to extend their promotional activities, although the decision was ultimately up to the restaurant, said Caroline Rustigian-Bruderer of K-Line and Company, the firm that did the publicity and marketing for Dine L.A.

“We threw it out there to the restaurants to extend it because they seemed like they want to. It was offering them such a great opportunity,” Rustigian-Bruderer said.

One restaurant, Boa Steakhouse, saw such an upswing in business that it decided to keep its Dine L.A. menu for another two months.

Brent Berkowitz, operations director for Innovative Dining Group, the company that owns Boa, said that this was the restaurant’s first positive experience as a participant in Dine L.A. However, the results were so good that the “appetite stimulus menu,” as they coin it, will stick around for at least another two to three months.

“Out of a given night, maybe 10 percent would order the ASM,” Berkowitz said. “That included guests we wouldn’t have otherwise gotten or guests who would have only come in once a month, but maybe came back two times because of this menu.”

Megan Sheehy, general manager of Locanda del Lago, was similarly sunny.

“We saw a lot of new faces. It’s a good way to reach out to new customers,” she said. “In the first two weeks, business was up 20 percent.”

These are important gains in uncertain economic times for businesses whose livelihood depends on people’s ability to purchase luxuries like a night out.

“They’re happy to have a good time and not spend a lot of money,” Berkowitz said. “The restaurant business is all about loyalty. You have to show loyalty back. God willing, when the economy gets better, they’ll come back.”

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